Posted by Daniel Harper at 14/03/2019 12:02:27
By Dr Bob Bowes, Chair NHS West Kent CCG
Your GP may prescribe you medicine to help you get better, however, not all health issues can be fixed in this way.
Social and environmental factors also affect the way you feel and can have a huge impact on your health. That’s why GPs are increasingly talking about ‘social prescribing’.
Although a cumbersome phrase, it just means prescribing something non-medical. They are a range of services and schemes that people can use to improve their health and wellbeing. For example, cookery classes and healthy eating advice, volunteering, or sports and exercise groups.
As we mark International Social Prescribing Day (14 March),there is emerging evidence that social prescribing can help patients to improve their health, wellbeing and social welfare by connecting them to community services which might be run by the council or a local charity.
People living in west Kent are now benefitting from social prescribing. Involve Kent, in partnership with NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), has received a share of a £4.5 million government fund to test different ways to support people and find out what works best.
The scheme, Involve Connect for Wellbeing, is now live in five practices in west Kent. Specialist staff and volunteers are available to help patients with social, emotional or practical needs by helping them to connect with groups or activities that appeal to them.
The five GP practices currently taking part include: The Vine Medical Centre (Maidstone), Marden Medical Centre (Tonbridge), Borough Green Medical Practice (Sevenoaks), Snodland Medical Practice (Snodland) and St Andrews Medical Centre (Southborough).
The Involve Connect for Wellbeing service is working with more than 1,000 local organisations and has more than 200 assured activities and services to support and help patients.
Here are some examples of social prescribing in action:
Helping Jessica return to work
Jessica came to see me in a very despondent and emotional state. She was experiencing pain throughout her body and investigations were ongoing into her condition. This pain meant she had to give up work and it had severely limited her life in many ways.
She had been very active woman before her illness. She loved all manner of hobbies and held a responsible managerial role at work. But, she was finding it terribly difficult not having the level of independence she once had and felt people didn’t quite understand or appreciate her plight.
The first benefit she felt of social prescribing was just having someone to talk to and who listened. She found that to be very helpful and a load off her shoulders. Using motivation interviewing techniques she felt empowered to make decisions about her future.
Signposting to counselling support, she went back to her employer and has now started her block of sessions. In addition, we talked about the benefits of exercise to her. She is about to return to the swimming pool for low-level exercise classes which will help ease some of the pain she is feeling especially in her joints.
Although she has good and bad days, she feels in a much better place and her demeanour has changed remarkably.
Helping John feel happy again
John had moved to the area a few years ago and found the move very isolating, moving away from friends and family.
During the conversation it turned out he had been a part of many local community projects and being involved with the local community gave him a sense of worth.
With his background and his skills, I knew he had loads to offer but he had become withdrawn from his new community.
A member of the Patient Participation Group (PPG) had discussed and planned to run a community allotment project for patients near to the GP practice.
This seemed to be a great link to this patient and he is soon to work alongside the PPG member with this allotment project.
This was the moment that John felt he had a purpose again and gave him something to look forward to.